Diary of an Aurelia Plath Researcher

<Sylvia Plath’s mother is Plath studies’ “final frontier.” While thoroughly researching poet Sylvia’s father Otto, Plath scholars and fans have tacitly agreed with Sylvia that Aurelia Schober Plath (1906-1994) tried to live through her writer daughter, and that Aurelia's life was not worth looking into. Author Catherine Rankovic began independent research in Plath archives in 2013, transcribing Aurelia Plath’s Gregg shorthand notes on Plath papers. Ongoing, wide-ranging research notes are posted at AureliaPlath.info. Notes to this essay are appended. Author’s essay “Medusa’s Metadata” appears in The Bloomsbury Handbook to Sylvia Plath (2022).>


Dec. 16, 2022: Sylvia’s babies—like a teenager, she wanted “babies”—grew into children. Her desperate pleas in her letters for nannies, au pair girls, relief from squalling babies. She would have to become a parent. This she confused with becoming her mother.


Dec. 18: Frank Schober, Jr., Aurelia’s brother, Sylvia’s uncle (b. 1919) left his parents’ Winthrop household at 18, moved in with his father’s brother, went to Northeastern U., job as a porter in City Hospital. Lived much of his working life in Pennsylvania. Died in 2009. Was never interviewed.


Dec. 20: Aurelia wrote a penpal in 1979:


I admit I have lived my own life very much as a “square.” That was the climate I was brought up in and I couldn’t stand the emotional conflicts that any other style would impose. In my day there would have had to be evasions and it just would have hurt the people in my family . . .


Sylvia too was called “square” by Smith College housemate Lisa Levy. Levy says Sylvia knew better, that Sylvia saw the cooler girls, could have joined them; following the rules was only ass-licking.


Jan. 7, 2023: Revised a year-old blog post, “Could Aurelia’s Letters to Sylvia Still Exist?” because now I think Aurelia thought too highly of her own writing ability to destroy her hundreds of letters to Sylvia.


Aurelia at first wanted Letters Home to include some of her letters to Sylvia. Ted and Olwyn Hughes shot that idea down in the planning stages. In 1971 Aurelia wrote a friend that she was keeping herself out of the book, using only Sylvia’s letters, and ending in the spring of ’62, with “the joyous group at Court Green.” Conveniently three months before Ted blew up the marriage.


That means at least some of Aurelia’s letters to Sylvia survived into the 1970s. “Sylvia burned them” is Aurelia’s invention, the flourish “upward of a thousand” told in 1982 to a biographer who hung out at her house for three days.


Twitter said Dr. Heather Clark, author of Red Comet, will speak about high-school teacher Wilbury Crockett’s role in Sylvia’s development as a writer. I await the talk about Aurelia’s role. The published Letters put us thigh-deep in evidence. Giving that talk I guess is my job.


Jan. 8: Aurelia’s 1970s papers, combed today, reveal a student’s name: Arlene Ostrokolowicz plus married name, student in 1972-73. Google shows her address and Facebook. I want to know what a former student might say about Aurelia’s teaching. None of Aurelia’s students were ever interviewed; this would be the first. She Facebook-Messages that she will be thrilled to talk, to recall those days.


Jan. 11: Contacted Cape Cod Community College public-records officer with a long list of records they can dig up and send me. Aurelia taught there 1970-73. Requested records about the degree programs, courses Aurelia taught, academic calendars, 1970-74; yearbook or other photos, clippings. If ASP’s schedule or salary was public information, I want that too, “and anything else you find interesting.” Be sure to append that to every archival request.


Jan. 13: Cape Cod archivist Rebekah Ambrose-Dalton copied and postal-mailed all Aurelia-related material. She would have scanned it, but their scanner is broken.


Jan. 15: Twitter advertised a Folio edition of The Bell Jar with six “ethereal” full-color illustrations showing no one but Sylvia. One faery-tale pastel has Sylvia wearing angel wings. Angel wings. The publisher, British, knows how to sell to Americans.


Jan. 23: Independence, MO: East Coast professor read my post “The White Waiter” about Aurelia’s father’s job at the Thorndike Hotel and emailed that her great-grandfather was one of the hotel’s two proprietors. Did I know who was the other? On Amtrak from Kirkwood to Independence, with five otherwise idle hours I guessed and Googled and hit an old Thorndike advertisement with the answer. Sent her the screenshot. She inherited silver-plated Thorndike teapots and tableware, things still available on eBay.


Jan. 24: Independence, MO: Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Even there, seeking context for the Plaths. Chilling wartime radio broadcasts, “We interrupt this program—” Sylvia’s was the first generation born with the background hum and gripping dramatic tension of radio programming.


Anne Sexton in a poem described “Truman’s asexual voice.” Films show that is true, but only later in his presidency.


Jan. 25: The multi-lingual Plath and Schober families, their linguistic energies funneled into American English, Sylvia’s only language, intensified with British English then reduced like radium to the Ariel poems. Sylvia never needed another language, and that is a privilege.


Imagine the same poet, same everything, named Sylvia Schober. Poor thing wouldn’t have a chance.


Jan. 26: Everything for me happens 40 years later. Five years of stilted classroom recitations about the Rhine River. At 55 I finally see the Rhine. In Poland I toured Auschwitz, and they bus you to Birkenau, 3km from there, where the train tracks end and the gas chambers are. I felt a physical change there. I came out changed, down to the telomeres.


“Why is our whole generation, like, depressed and on antidepressants?” “Because our fathers were in the war.”


Jan. 27, Wednesday: This week’s speaker works for a nonprofit that picks up bodies of refugees in Arizona’s desert, for their dignity and for geospatial intelligence. Discussion of American Dirt: Should a white novelist (only one-quarter Hispanic) have written a Mexican refugee’s story? Speaker says no. I think writers should write what they want and accept the risk that folks will hate it, will unfollow your Instagram. Group discussion of the present border immigration “situation” hobbled by the fact that we had no facts.


-Immigration is carnage—


Sylvia boldly reversed her family history. Became an immigrant herself.


-See what I mean?


Jan. 28: In a contest between Aurelia and Sylvia for “Who was the better mother?” one must grant Aurelia the win.


Aurelia’s mother, Aurelia Sr., Aurelia called “a very relaxed personality,” yet that relaxed personality married the minute she turned 18; commandeered the household finances her husband botched; drove Aurelia and Otto on a 6000-mile round trip to get em married; spanked kid Sylvia for ruining wallpaper (“Ocean 1212-W”); kvetched “I hope you enjoy that roast, it cost forty-one cents a pound” (Bell Jar, 28). Was a frustrated classical zither player. The only letter from Grammy in archives, sent to Aurelia from the Cape, complains of the weather, food in small portions, tickets for a play were sold out. Aurelia Sr. read Aurelia’s college textbooks, because “Two can get a college education on one tuition.” It sounds invasive. Young Aurelia hid books under mattresses, lost herself in reading, at age 20 wrote secretive notes in Gregg shorthand, a language her family could not read.


Jan. 29: The inflation of Sylvia Plath to an incomparable genius parallels the inflation of Aurelia Plath into a dreadful monster. Sylvia was a prodigy. The difference between the prodigy and the genius is that the prodigy might be naïve.


Jan. 30: Seventeen published poet Audre Lorde’s sonnet “Spring” in April 1951, on the “It’s All Yours” page; she was seventeen. The poem has frightening depths: agony, burial. In November 1950 Seventeen had featured eighteen-year-old Sylvia’s “Ode to a Bitten Plum.”


Someone should write a Plath-Lorde comparative study. Lorde (b. 1934) actually picketed to save the Rosenbergs and it was her lovers who had shock treatments.


Jan. 31: The East Coast scholar did not thank me. I should not have told her I was hoping to come to Boston this summer. She thinking I was fishing for an invitation? I know better.


Newspapers show Aurelia was active in Boston University alumni associations at least until 1937 and I want to see any records; also records of the faculty wives’ book club, should they exist. Those were her lifelines while she was living with Otto.


Feb. 1: How could Aurelia have read so much literature (“Emily Dickinson was my new Bible”) and none of it improve her writing? No similes, metaphors, growth in vocabulary or variation in tone. Instead, adjectives. Y’know what? Aurelia wasn’t analyzed. She never took up sarcasm, banter, buzzwords, psychobabble. In earnest she underlined in Sylvia’s copy of The Short Novels of Colette:


From the very first day of [Colette’s] marriage and metropolitan life she had painstakingly prevaricated in every letter back to the provincial town. Perhaps Sido [her mother] read between the lines, but she replied only to what her daughter chose to tell.


Nervous breakdown had done her good, as it often does, or so it seems: something in the way of  a liberating effect.


She had monogamous blood in her veins by inheritance, the effect of which was a certain enfeeblement in the ways of the world.


It is a matter of observation that daughters often very nearly perish than admit that mother knew best.


Notice all the qualifiers: “perhaps,” “so it seems,” “a matter of observation,” “often very nearly.” “Very nearly” Aurelia enclosed in parentheses.


Feb. 2: Dr. Jacqueline Rose’s book Mothers (2018) says mothers are dumping grounds for the whole world’s discontents. And aren’t allowed to express mixed feelings. Mentions the Plaths in the section titled “Hating.” Rose saw Aurelia planned to quote to an audience from Sylvia’s “Three Women” the First Voice’s famous, loving lines, “What did my fingers do before they held him? / What did my heart do with its love? / I have never seen a thing so clear. / His lids are like the lilac flower,” etc. Rose complains that Aurelia’s notes do not include the same Voice’s earlier description of agonizing labor: “I am the center of an atrocity. / What pains, what sorrowing, must I be mothering? / Can such innocence kill and kill? It milks my life.” Rose comments, page 123:


[Sylvia] Plath did not shy from putting atrocity, cruelty, and murderousness in the midst of a mother’s love . . . but her own mother could not stand it. A mother censors her daughter’s representation of mothering, shutting down the world of thought.”


Rose says, “For the most part, the world, like Aurelia Plath, does not want to know about this dark underside of loving.”


First, let us agree that no one can ever know, from a page of notes, what Aurelia Plath did or did not want to know.


Might we agree that Aurelia Plath as a mother knew something about the dark underside of loving.


Let us agree that quoting ten lines from a published poem of almost 400 lines is not “censoring” the poet or poem, or, for Pete’s sake, “shutting down the world of thought.”


Elizabeth Sigmund’s 1988 phone interview with Aurelia says Olwyn Hughes “at the last minute” denied PBS’s Voices and Visions permission to quote those particular “Three Women” lines. Aurelia said that was because those lines made Sylvia look like a good mother and made “the poet laureate” look bad, look “brutal,” for deserting her. Aurelia made a point to recite those “censored” and thus highly charged lines, flagrantly, on home video taken in 1986, preserved in an educational video (2000).


Agreed that Sylvia “did not shy from putting atrocity, cruelty, and murderousness in the midst of a mother’s love,” having killed herself leaving two little kids.


All respect to Rose’s Sylvia Plath book. But when Aurelia-bashing, use facts.


Feb. 3: Aurelia’s former student said for the second time she is too ill to talk. I think this means she will never talk. I offered $100 if she liked.


Feb. 4: Aurelia’s former student texted that she could use the $100 stipend. First she asked why I wanted to hear about Aurelia. A fair question. I texted, “I liked Sylvia’s writing so I went to an archive to see the original letters and saw they had shorthand written all over them. No one had ever transcribed what it said. I did. It took 6 years. Her daughter is so famous but no research on Aurelia existed. I believe she was important in Sylvia’s life and began to piece her life together. She taught for 31 years but no research on her professional life. . .”


She, Arlene, will hunt up her college transcript and write me an email.


This week’s blog post discusses Sylvia’s violent tendencies, which show in childhood and are news to nobody. Journals, Jan. ’58: “The day I hung Johanna from the trapeze . . .” I have learned it is rude to find fault with Sylvia. Flinches, frowns went around the Zoom when I said “Sylvia’s obvious racism.”


“Why does she have to be perfect?” someone said in another meeting of Plathians, back in spring, and that meeting went suddenly speechless.


Feb. 5: In the midst of online course in Wordpress. Idea to create an online clearinghouse for all Plath notices, podcasts, info, tweets, announcements of lectures, books, auctions, links to Plath Profiles and further resources. Registered the names Plathworld.com and Plathcentral.com. I’ve missed wonderful Plath events because the only notice was on Twitter.


Feb. 6: Exhausted, too much to do, nauseated on approaching the computer, haven’t been going to bed until 1. Gave up on the Wordpress course. Can enroll again. Read The Wright Brothers. They never gave up. But there were two of them and they went home every night to a family that loved them.


Feb. 7: Aurelia’s former student is being evicted. We set up a time I can be at the library, where there’s a good phone signal. This way she will get the stipend when she really needs it. Sick with dread that housing insecurity will happen to me.


Boston is unaffordable. Hotels $400 a night. Can no longer climb a fire escape or its equivalent to an AirBnB at $250 a night. Proxy research, no matter the cost, would be cheaper. It’s time to ask for and accept help if it is available.


Feb. 8: Yesterday interviewed Aurelia’s student, a first. When a required medical-secretarial course did not fit into Arlene’s schedule, Aurelia personally tutored her three days a week. After graduating and inviting Aurelia to her wedding, student had lost touch. She had never heard of Letters Home, or the play, or the film. Aurelia never mentioned her own medical issues, or the heart attack of autumn 1971. <Pasted excerpt>


Were you aware that you were being taught by Sylvia Plath’s mother? Was that something generally known?


Yes. It wasn’t generally known, but she mentioned to me that she was especially fond of me because I reminded her a little bit of her daughter—isn’t that funny? I have no clue about her daughter personality-wise, I really don’t know, I don’t think I was depressed at that point (laughs). Yeah, but we had some nice conversations about her and her daughter and about The Bell Jar.


Do you remember anything she said? About her daughter or The Bell Jar?


She just explained that her daughter had a rough time certain years of her life, and you could actually see the depression by some of the poems that she had written, and she did mention to me about The Bell Jar and I did go and read it, and I was a little confused by it, myself. I’m not into poetry too much, but I did my best, but she didn’t—you know, it was really private to her, but she did say a few things about her daughter and how close they were. I just had a very nice relationship with her where she felt at ease and I felt at ease with her too. I looked forward to going to her classes.


What would you say about her teaching style?


It was her personality. It rubbed off on me. She was just uplifting, upbuilding, positive attitude, yes you can do it, no matter how hard it is I know you can do it, and she’d give you the little push that you needed, very very positive with all her students, but like I said, when I was practically tutored the last semester it was extremely special to me.


Arlene went on to teach medical billing and coding at community colleges throughout the state.


Just now off the Microsoft Team meeting from Britain: essay on Plath in France by Dr. Julie Irigaray, with useful maps of Plath’s journeys. No mention of newlyweds Plath and Hughes (he hated France) inviting themselves on Aurelia’s planned eight days in Paris. Dr. Gail Crowther read an essay about Sylvia’s clothes. “Sensual” the word I remember. Idea for a post: “Sylvia Plath’s Fashion Faux Pas”


As a rainstorm consumed my phone signal, a discussion of Plath’s racism; this time it’s said she must be held accountable. Fear expressed of “cancel culture” canceling Plath for her infractions. Plath knew the n-word was vulgar, used it anyway. I thought of the “Negro” she kicked—The Bell Jar assault certainly happened, she was violent—his face “a molasses-colored moon,” a buffoon, just as she buffooned everyone else in the book but her psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Beuscher. In 1974 Beuscher told Harriet Rosenstein “I’m a white witch” and tried teaching her Tarot; in 1980 Beuscher ran around wearing white robes and a big pectoral cross, a Christian theologian like her overwhelming father.

[Margin: More Plath moon imagery!]


Finisterre: finis terre. Of course.


On Zoom, much waving about of books. Please understand that Plath World deals in books and only books; essays are the small change of it; facts even smaller change, not real or convincing until they’re in a book. Much waving about of everybody’s books these days. If a book is needed or wanted it will be bought. Not before then.


A Plath-Hughes center to be established in Heptonstall in time for the Plath centenary. Out of the way for travelers and inaccessible to the mobility-impaired. What resources will it have besides tours?


Expert on poetry of World War I tells me that in England at a gathering he met Ted Hughes, who was all hunched over, clearly fearing he’d be asked about Sylvia. Expert told Hughes how moving is the poem “Out” that says a paybook in the breast pocket saved Ted’s soldier father’s life. I said that’s an old story, the book in that story is usually a Bible. Expert said he never heard that, which cannot be true. But an expert answer. It defended his territory and rendered me an ignorant fool.


“If you keep a diary, the more of the entries you make in shorthand, the more difficult it will be for those who do not know shorthand to learn your secrets!” –Gregg Shorthand Manual (1955)


Feb. 9: Electra complex is Jung, not Freud. When someone enthuses about Jung, cringe city. What if I told you your dreams at night are not important. “They’re important to meeee—”


Plath the ultimate White Girl. Perhaps the last Really White Girl. She made the Rosenbergs all about her. Her father’s death hurt only her. She wants to go to Morocco where servants do the housework. Contemptuous, “doesn’t know what she is doing in New York” when everyone not white in New York better be purposeful or look it. But who would want to be judged by what they wrote in their 20s.


Muck-a-muck. Pacific Northwest Native American (Chinook) for “plenty of food.”


Feb. 10: “One of the greatest poets of the 20th century” and said to be shaped for life by her childhood, but for 50 years ignore the poet’s mother, the first to see Sylvia’s literary talent and encourage her, give her story ideas, of all beings knew and loved Sylvia best and longest, chief witness to her life. Preserved Sylvia’s letters and archived all her junque so we can adore it and live her life vicariously.


Feb. 11: Sylvia’s death day. Aurelia wrote Max Gaebler, 4/4/83, that Warren did not remember Otto. But of course he did.


How a very sweet and inspiring teacher made the devious assertion that Sylvia wrote and read to her from a happy novel “of joy and romance,” written as a birthday gift for Ted, then saw Sylvia burn it. The last thing Ted or any writer wants or needs is someone else’s manuscript. And Sylvia did not write gifts. She wrote for money.


Au pair means, literally, “equal to.”


Feb. 12: Just paid $112.26 to place in two Cape Cod papers ads seeking Aurelia’s former students for interviews. Cape Cod Times daily covers Cape plus islands. Barnstable Patriot a humble weekly, but I read my humble weekly local paper front to back.


What if somebody wants what I find? What if my research will improve someone’s life?


Feb. 14: Dr. Beuscher said about Sylvia in therapy, “Her feelings were very violent and primitive.” As defined in a psychiatric setting: hate, anger, fear. Read again about Sylvia hating and fearing her chemistry class and science in general. Her father a scientist. Sylvia was just as allergic to German. “Such a dark funnel, my father!” Imagine the person who could say such a thing without laughing.


Feb. 17: B.U. archives are open to researchers Mondays and Tuesdays only. Impossible. The Boston I lived in loved to set boundaries, tellers slamming windows shut, requiring a tie for entry (holding out a basket full of ties to the tie-less), two photo IDs for entry, and “Do Not Even Think of Parking Here.” Just now I sent B.U. archives requests for any info on Aurelia’s alumni association work—Otto couldn’t object to her leaving the house for that!—and the Faculty Wives’ group.


Emailed Dr. Anita Helle for whatever the family letters she holds might contain regarding Aurelia’s work life. Dr. Helle answered within the hour that she will look through the letters.


I keep my stick on the ice.


Feb. 18: No responses to my ads. No online access to whole B.U. yearbooks to find possible secretarial alumnae. I will have to buy one, c. 1967, $40 on eBay. Viewed 1950 U.S. census. Plaths’ a two-income household until Grampy Schober retired in 1952. Aurelia and Sylvia then panic about money. Finances a huge motivator in the suicide attempt. Have never seen a Plath analysis, biographical or literary, based on money. Although I still have that issue of TriQuarterly that maps out Sylvia’s periods and claims she had PMS.


Mentally ill women in the story: Jane Truslow, Marion Freeman, Marcia Brown’s mother, Otto Plath’s mother, Uncle Walter’s daughter; Sylvia. Assia Wevill not ill, just “emotionally incontinent”


Issue was not Mother or motherhood but wifehood. No such book. I could write it.


I can’t research everything, go to every archive, write everything. There is so much to do. I need to get away. After Wednesday.


Feb. 23: Day away—at university library, sifting through Plath books out of print. Not the kind of day away I need. One-year anniversary of the Ukraine invasion. Dr. Anita Helle’s essay in Representing Sylvia Plath says Aurelia took the “Otto at the blackboard” photo around 1930 and mailed it to all Otto’s relatives to show he made good. It follows that Otto took that photo of Aurelia with white sunhat and stockings, also c. 1930.


That Aurelia attracted two brilliant, accomplished older men with some trait that doesn’t show in photographs.


Feb. 24: Tried to view my ad in Barnstable Patriot and Cape Cod Times. Didn’t see it on either.


There’s a $5000 award for a proposal from a first-time biographer if I write up and send everything by March 1. Have first drafts! Applying will take all my time. But it would help so much on every level, such as permissions to quote.


Drew up an Aurelia-centered C.V. Friend at San Francisco State said mentioning shorthand lets them guess my age. The proposal—what shall I propose, given the enormous gaps in the Aurelia record? No childhood information except in Letters Home. A new model for biography: The author says “There is no record” or “There are records I am not permitted to quote at this time” or “Author did not have the funds to travel to such and such archive.”


The mother-daughter analysis I’d like to do requires first Aurelia’s biography, and the biographical research work fell to me. Higher octaves for those after me. Understand this.


Feb. 28: B.U. archives writes me that their alumni association records go back only to 1950. And no info on faculty wives’ book club. But surely somewhere is a loose thread I can pull.


March 1: Bloomington-Normal, IL. Panting and cross-eyed after four days on it, I finished my biography synopsis, C.V., proposal, chapter titles, market analysis, and writing sample, and sent to Biographers International competition at 9:39 a.m. with the $25 fee. The winner gets money, membership in the organization, an agent’s read-through, nice for an independent scholar. The money would take me to College Park and Boston. And could open some doors.


Wednesday meeting topic: Putin. Already 200,000 Russian dead in Ukraine. “Because our fathers were in the war.” Too depleted to finish driving north, I’m in a motel. WYZZ-TV-Peoria reports that federal SNAP benefits were cut today.


March 3: Racine, WI: My hometown’s public library has three Sylvia Plath books and Crowther’s Three Martinis at the Ritz. Checked out and re-read The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath (1991). Author posits without evidence that young Aurelia got by on her looks. Aurelia looked like a flightless bird: Big Bird. Elderly Aurelia, like a cassowary.


March 6: Disgust at Aurelia, in Letters Home, changing Sylvia’s words “reading your World War II book about Colditz” (Aug. 16, 1960) to “your World War II book about Auschwitz.” (Letters Home, 390) Just noticed it. Worked out her logic for lying. Sylvia in a 1962 letter heckled her mother, “You’ve always been afraid of reading or seeing the hardest things” like death camps. But if Aurelia really shrank from “the hardest things” like incarceration and mass death why was she reading any World War II book? Past 11 p.m. viewed a YouTube of “Bumble Boogie,” a hit piano tune “special” to Sylvia. Delightful. Astounding if she could play it. Tweeted it.


March 8: Small jobs popping up. Applied for them all.





Dec. 20: “Aurelia wrote a penpal,” Aurelia Plath (AP) to Mary Ann Montgomery, 30 January 1979, Lilly; Harriet Rosenstein’s transcript of her interview with Lisa Levy on 27 April 1974, Box 3 Folder 3 p. 5, Collection 1489, Emory.

Jan. 7: “In 1971 Aurelia wrote a friend,” AP to Mary Stetson Clarke, 15 Dec. 1971, p.1; “the flourish ‘upwards of a thousand’,” Paul Alexander, Rough Magic (Viking, 1991), p. 286. The book’s second edition (1999) reveals AP as a primary source. “around the house for three days,” AP to Max Gaebler, 2 October 1983, Smith; same date, AP to Rose Leiman Goldemberg, NYPL.

Jan. 24: “Truman’s asexual voice,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin, 1981), p. 233.

Jan. 28: “a very relaxed personality,” AP to Ted Hughes, 7 July 1966, Lilly. “6000-mile round trip,” Aureliaplath.info post 8 March 2022; “The only letter from Grammy,” Aurelia Greenwood Schober to AP, 10 July 1946, Smith; “Two can get a college education,” Letters Home, p. 5.

Jan. 30:Lorde’s sonnet ‘Spring’ in April 1951”; “Lorde actually picketed,” Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (The Crossing Press, 1982), p. 148; “her lovers who had shock treatments,” ibid. p. 184, 199.

Feb. 1: “psychobabble,” excepting that AP long held that electroshock had “split Sylvia into ‘the double’”; penciled underscoring on pp. xvii and xviii in Sylvia Plath’s copy of The Short Novels of Colette, introduction by Glenway Westcott, Dial Press, 1951. In pages’ margins are penciled the name “Sylvia” in shorthand, and “1963,” circled, Lilly Library.

Feb. 2: Jacqueline Rose, Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2018); citation for AP’s “Notes for Author’s Series Talks” (1976) is in The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, p. 249; “1988 phone interview,” Elizabeth Compton Sigmund collection, Smith.

Feb. 8: Irigaray had mentioned AP in earlier presentations about Plath in France, email to Author, 6 May 2023; “Dr. Ruth Beuscher,” “her overwhelming father,” “The Lady is a Priest,” D Magazine, 1 June 1983; Karen Moroda, “Sylvia and Ruth,” Salon.com, 29 November 2004; “I’m a white witch”: “[Ruth] was an experienced, ‘devout’ astrologer and did her own chart daily. . . She believed herself to be a witch—a white witch” Harriet Rosenstein, a typewritten “note on the following pages” preceding photocopied pages from Rosenstein’s journal c. 1974, Collection 1489, Emory.

Feb. 11: “Warren did not remember,” AP wrote family friend Max Gaebler that Gaebler’s personal memoir, “Sylvia Plath Remembered” (1983) gave Warren Plath “an introduction to his father of whom he has no memory of his own at all,” Smith. “then saw Sylvia burn it,” AP interview in The Listener, 22 April 1976, vol. 95, p. 516.

Feb. 14: “very violent and primitive,” McLean Hospital Record notes, Box 3, Folder 10, p. 13, Collection 1489, Emory.

Feb. 18: “Marion Freeman,” AP to Carol Hughes, 5 July 1982, Box 5, folder 18, Collection 1489, Emory; AP to Mary Ann Montgomery, 19 March 1980. “I still have that,” Catherine Thompson, “Dawn Poems in Blood: Sylvia Plath and PMS,” TriQuarterly 80, Winter 1990.

Feb. 23: “Anita Helle’s essay,” “Plath, Photography and the Post-Confessional Muse,” in Representing Sylvia Plath, Bayley and Brain, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2011.

March 3: “Aurelia got by on her looks,” Ronald Hayman, The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath (Carol Publishing, 1991), pp. 25, 34.

March 6: YouTube: Jack Fina plays “Bumble Boogie.” accessed 30 March 2023.


© 2023 by Catherine Rankovic. May not be quoted without permission.



Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Thank you for sharing. Outside of other researchers, few see the behind-the-scenes processing of bits of information like this.

Jenny said...

Thank you for posting this! It's fascinating, especially for someone like me with no idea of what goes into researching Aurelia. I hope you find her letters to Sylvia--I'm sure they're out there somewhere. If there's anything the highly publicized Sylvia auctions of the last few years have taught us, it's that the family never threw away anything.

Vivian Hassan-Lambert said...

Thanks for sharing Catherine. Hope you got the grant!!!!